Diabetes & Cholesterol (LDL & HDL)

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Cholesterol is a molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that is both made in the body and produced as an intermediate break down product of your body’s metabolism. The main dietary source of cholesterol is in animal fats, milk, cheese and egg yolks. It is an essential molecule in the body (which is why the body is able to make it) as it fulfils a number of important functions. These functions include its role in cell membranes (the outer skin of all cells in the body) where it acts to increase the fluidity of the membrane and its role in the breakdown of vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K which occurs once cholesterol is itself broken down into bile. In the blood stream cholesterol can be transported in a number of ways, and the mode of transportation alters the effect of cholesterol on your susceptibility to disease. In this way, it is thought that your blood can contain both “bad cholesterol” which is transported in low density lipoproteins (LDL) and “good cholesterol” which is transported in high density lipoproteins (HDL). The LDL’s are thought to be “bad” because high numbers of LDL’s in your blood stream are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis (where hard fatty deposits are deposited in your blood vessels and cause narrowing of the vessels). Atherosclerosis significantly increases your risk of heart disease and strokes. In contrast, the HDL’s are able to actively pick up free flowing cholesterol that has been deposited in the blood vessels and transport it back to the liver where it is transformed into useful products (such as bile) and excreted. However, in people with diabetes the mechanisms involved in HDL scavenging does not work as well as it should, so the risk of developing atherosclerosis (and therefore the risk of heart disease) is much higher. If you are a diabetic you need to keep a regular check on your total cholesterol levels (HDL and LDL) to ensure that you minimise your risk of atherosclerosis. This can be done by managing your diet to reduce your dietary intake of cholesterol and taking regular exercise.

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